Friday, November 2, 2007

Help Me...

Help Me...

I'm taking a little break for lunch, so let me get you up to date.

Everything has been getting to me. The cameras on the ceilings, the guards patrolling the campus, and every email and IM is causing me to break out in a cold sweat. I've looked at the death list a hundred times already. Someone has already updated it to indicate that Aileen McGovern is dead.

I was walking down the hall when I ran across Carrie Park. I originally met her at orientation. She's younger than I am, maybe 24 or so, but already she has a PhD. She's whispered to be some kind of phenom. She gets to go to all the fancy conferences and has her fingers in a lot of top-priority projects.

She's not much to look at. She's small and a little scrawny, with limp and stringy hair and thick rectangular glasses. Her face is angular and a little haughty in my opinion. Every time I deal with her I feel intimidated, because she speaks her mind and always seems to set everyone in their place like she's Queen or something. I did a design review with her once, and she proceeded to rip into my plans like I was an incompetent imbecile.

However, a few weeks ago I was here working late, really stuck on a problem. I went to get a drink of water and I noticed Carrie in her office as usual. I don't think she ever leaves, except for her frequent conferences and offsite meetings. She's usually there when I get in, and she's still there when I leave. I hesitated, then knocked on her door.

"Yeah," she said, barely moving her eyes from the monitor.

"Hey, Carrie, remember me? I'm really stuck on something. Remember the review you did? I just can't figure it out. Do you have a second?"

For a long moment she sat staring at her screen, typing away at the keyboard. Then she slowly raised her eyes to mine, glaring. "Ok, fine. I only have a minute."

She grudgingly trudged to my office and we sat down together.

"What the hell is this crap," she breathed, peering at my laughable code. "We just need to start over."

For the next four hours, until the wee hours of the morning, we sat there working on the problem. I found that we actually had a rapport, bouncing ideas off one another. Still, I found myself amazed, and perhaps even a little jealous of her insight and creativity in solving the problem. At one point I nearly feel asleep until she cruelly knocked me upside the head. "Pay attention, this is important," she said.

That late night session really left an impression on me. It's true, she barely acknowledges me when I pass her in the hall, and I've never seen her at any social activity, even lunch.

Anyways, she walks by me with barely a nod, and then I turned around and say, "Carrie!"

She stops like she's been shot and turns to me with a disappointed face.

"I'm really late for a meeting, Alex." She starts walking.

"Carrie, please. I just need a minute. It's important. It can't wait."

She turns back again, and looks at her watch. I think when she sees the desperation on my face, she relents. "OK. I can maybe be a couple minutes late."

"Let's find a conference room." I lead her down the hall. The first room is empty, but contains a video conference system. I think for a moment. How do I know that thing is really off?

"Not this room," I tell her. She slaps her thigh in frustration.

Down the hall I find another room with no VC system. I disconnect the phone just to be safe.

"What is going on, Alex? You're acting very strange." We sit down on opposite sides of the table. I get back up and close the shades.

Carrie is looking at me like I'm crazy. Well, maybe I am right now.

"Carrie," I start. "You know that our company motto is 'Be Infinitely Good' right? Well, I might have found something about us that's...infinitely bad."

"Okay," said Carrie slowly and deliberately.

"I think we hire hitmen," I just blurt out.

She stares at me blankly. Her chest shudders as she stifles laughter. She gathers her laptop and makes like she's about to leave.

"I'm serious," I say, "what do you know about any deals we have going with Alliance Tech?"

She stops cold. "That deal went into the toilet. I get it. The accident with McGovern last night--"

"I was there," I breath, "I saw the whole thing. It was no accident."

Carrie looks at the door for a long moment and checks her watch again. She looks at me through those thick glasses. "Why were you there?"

I pull out the printout I made of the death list and hand it to her. At first she grins and shakes her head, like this is all an elaborate joke. Then as she reads the names, her smile turns to a frown. I see her gripping the paper tighter. "These are all failed deals and each person listed is the dealbreaker. I've heard some rumors about an unusual level of accidents in this industry. Where did you get this?"

I explain how I somehow got privileged access. She turns on her laptop, but the secret script I used had disappeared.

"I've got to run," she finally tells me. "Listen Alex, do not tell anyone about this."

"Are you fucking kidding me? I almost barely told you. You're the smartest person I know, and I didn't know who else to turn to."

"Can I keep this," she says, waving the printout.

"Sure, but don't let anyone else see it. Keep it on you."

"Do you think I'm an idiot?" she snaps, then recants. "Sorry. Let's just keep quiet. We've got to talk again but my schedule's booked. Do you have any time this weekend?"

I shake my head. "We're spending the weekend in my folks' cabin in Tahoe. I don't want to IM or email about this. We're leaving right after work."

"Ok, let's meet Monday at 7"

"In the morning??" She glares at me. "OK, fine, 7am." I hope I can get up that early.

As we part she gives me a strange look, concern mixed with regret of some kind. I get a feeling that some of this might have been known to her already. Why the hell did I tell her my weekend plans?

God I need some sleep.

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